Ex-Lumena gang pilots new course at Amplyx with antifungal R&D, $40.5M

Some of the old San Diego gang that brought you Lumena--bought out by Shire ($SHPG) last year--have moved into top positions at Amplyx Pharmaceuticals as the biotech heads in a new direction, pointing a recently in-licensed antifungal product toward the clinic with $40.5 million from a high-profile group of venture players.

Lumena CEO Mike Grey

Now Mike Grey, a venture partner at Pappas and former CEO at Lumena, has taken the helm at Amplyx, bringing along Ciara Kennedy as COO and Susan Dube as VP of business development and administration.

While Amplyx has tooled along for years with a platform technology designed to improve the performance of small molecules--working with about $2 million in seed investments and some millions more in grants--the newly reorganized company will be closely focused on its antifungal development program.

Much like Cidara, another San Diego biotech, Amplyx was drawn to antifungals by a renewed, though still relatively modest, interest in antiinfectives in an age of growing drug resistance. New federal incentives for development have been making this field more attractive for developers, and the venture players who were attracted to the company wanted some familiar faces at the top before committing their cash.

RiverVest Venture Partners, led the round, which included investments by New Enterprise Associates, BioMed Ventures and individual investors. Grey says this was the first close on the B round. Another investor is expected to come in who will bring the total to about $47 million.

"The company was founded 9 years ago with technology from Stanford," says Grey. Founder and CSO Mitchell Mutz, though, came across a promising preclinical antifungal. Now, with the new company team in place and enough cash to steer through a mid-stage program aimed at candidiasis, invasive aspergillosis and rare molds, the plan is to execute the Phase I in 2016 and then aim for a broad Phase II series to fully test the therapy across the full range of targets.

For now, the new Amplyx team is holding a few key cards close to their vests. The new antifungal is in a new class, they say, but they're not identifying the mechanism of action--that part can wait until the first human data become public. They're also not saying, for now, which biopharma company they got it from.

"One reason why infectious diseases was on our radar," says Kennedy, "was because of the predictiveness of anima data. The data (on APX001) is really very impressive. It's very broad spectrum, very potent."

The mid-stage work is expected to get underway in 2017, says Grey, with time and money enough to nail down hard human data as they decide on the best future course for the biotech.

Niall O'Donnell, managing director of RiverVest Venture Partners, and Ed Mathers, a partner at New Enterprise Associates, were named to Amplyx's board of directors.